Equal access to public transportation is not an issue just for the disabled. It is a human rights issue, argues Adam Ballard, housing and transportation policy analyst at Access Living. Ballard will address sustainable and accessible transportation in Chicago at the April LWV Chicago Briefing.
Currently, 30% of CTA rapid transit stations do not have elevators to provide access for the disabled, says Ballard. That is the biggest challenge to equitable access to transportation in Chicago. Alternative modes of transportation offer their own obstacles.
Ballard notes that paratransit (pre-arranged, door-to-door service) offered by Pace lacks quality and reliability. Access Living has reported on low on-time performance of the paratransit service. The out-of-pocket cost to users is $3.25 per ride, about a dollar higher than CTA fare. But Ballard notes that the actual cost per ride is $40-45 when you count labor and gas, a very costly service for the public to support.
Ride share services, such as Uber and Lyft, have changed their pricing policies so that the disabled pay the same price as other consumers. But they do not offer as many vehicles, resulting in much longer waits for the disabled. “Our goal is service that is equivalent to everyone else’s,” says Ballard. “If most users have to wait two to three minutes, the same should be true for the disabled.”
With the prospect of a new mayor in Chicago, Ballard is not optimistic that the city will more aggressively promote equitable transit services for the disabled. During the primary, both mayoral candidates were among candidates at an Access Living summit, says Ballard. “But I don’t get a sense that it’s a huge issue with them.”
Whatever the level of interest in City Hall, Ballard argues that aside from the human rights angle, equal access to public transportation also has a compelling economic angle as well. “It seems to be true that companies that have a more diverse workforce, including the disabled, have better economic outcomes.” —Vanessa Bush Ford
Adam Ballard, Housing and Transportation Policy Analyst at Access Living in Chicago, and Barbara Cornew, Campaign Organizer for the Walk and Roll the Vote will speak at our April 13th Briefing on Accessible and Sustainable Transportation Alliance. Please plan to join us. Click to league [at] lwvchicago.org (RSVP).